Bouncers (clockwise from l-r: Ace Bhatti, Don Gilet, William Ilkley, Ian Reddington). Photo by Robert Day.
John Godber has been writing plays for the best part of four decades. In that time he’s amassed a hefty back catalogue of fifty-odd scripts, including original work (such as Happy Jack) and re-imaginings of classics such as A Christmas Carol and Dracula. In the Plays and Players Yearbook for 1993 he was calculated as the third most performed playwright in the UK.
Bouncers was only his second work (following a stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange) and was penned thirty five years ago. In it’s time it succinctly described the mainstream nightclubbing experience of a generation. But could it still remain relevant to clubbing crowds in the modern day?
Well, Godber’s experience of adapting the work of others has not been lost here. He’s revamped his original classic to include modern day references to mobile phones and revamped the score to include the likes of Nicki Minaj and David Guetta. Not bad reference points for a man knocking on sixty to hit…
He’s also cast a quartet of recognisable TV soap faces including Ian Reddington (Tricky Dicky from Eastenders), Don Gilet (Lucas Johnson from Eastenders), William Ilkley (Kevin Evans from Hollyoaks) and Nottingham’s own Ace Bhatti (Yusef Khan from Eastenders).
Bouncers: Ace Bhatti and Don Gilet camp it up. Photo by Robert Day.
As well as playing the title part of nightclub doormen, all four of the actors adapt into a variety of other nightclub-based characters (the whole play is just these four). The plot itself is perhaps a little loose. It explores the undercurrent of filth in town on a weekend evening and the desire of the working masses to go and spunk ill-advised amounts of their hard-earned on booze, pulling and fighting. But there’s not really a linear story as you expect from most plays.
It’s more of a showpiece than an emotional journey, as the only character who you feel real empathy for is Lucky Eric (Ian Reddington). He’s a bouncer at the end of his career, the leader of the four and yet full of fears and doubts about his future. He admits to being aroused by the young girls he is surrounded by, yet is also increasingly disgusted by the lifestyle.
Despite the floating nature of the other characters, all four actors play their parts excellently and all round it’s a good ensemble piece. The physical comedy on display provides a lot of laughs and their camp portrayals of women on the pull hark back to the era of Carry On films.
Whether Bouncers provides an accurate modern day commentary on ‘clubbing’ really depends on what venues you frequent and whether you listen to a lot of chart music. If you spend most of your nights out in a tight shirt, stalking girls at Oceana then it might well do. But if you know the difference between drum and bass and dubstep, then this play isn’t really going to define you and your clubbing experiences.
Bouncers is showing at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 29 September.